Home Sport Blitzboks focused on elusive Hong Kong Sevens title

Blitzboks focused on elusive Hong Kong Sevens title

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The South Africans have won 40 tournaments around the globe, but have never won the biggest prize of all – the Hong Kong gold.

Quewin Nortjé is happy to be back from injury, and determined to help his team win gold in Hong Kong. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky, BackpagePix

Mike Greenaway

For all the success the Blitzboks have enjoyed over the years, the Hong Kong Sevens is the one prize that has eluded them.

The South Africans have won 40 tournaments around the globe, but have never won the biggest prize of all – the Hong Kong gold.

And with the iconic tournament moving to a new venue next year, they have one last shot at it.

One would expect some emotional baggage for this fairly experienced Blitzbok squad at the final event in the Son Ko Po suburb, but for the two youngest squad members, history counts for nothing.

Katlego Letebele and Quewin Nortjé, who made their debuts for the team at the season opener in Dubai in December, enter the fray with nothing else on their minds but contributing to a winning effort.

Neither of these two former Junior Springboks are burdened by previous struggles in the Far East.

“I want to contribute to the team,” Letebele explained on Wednesday.

“I did not expect to be part of every tournament so far, given that I had to learn the tricks of the trade when I joined the squad last year.

“So, looking back, it is a blessed feeling knowing that I have progressed and learned so much in the last six months.”

Letebele feels that he has been contributing, whether on the field or off the bench: “I have a simple attitude. Whether I am on the field starting a match or coming off the bench, I do whatever is needed to add to the team effort.”

Last year this time, Letebele was admiring the skills of some of the senior players, and now he is feeding them attacking options and making tackles alongside them.

“I would not have dreamt this when I joined the sevens,” he said. “Here I am, travelling the world, representing my country and fighting hard alongside a great group of guys doing their best for the badge. That is massive for me.”

Letebele’s path has been made easier thanks to the encouragement from the senior players: “They have helped me get to grips with the demands of sevens and to adjust to the insane pace of the game. This is a good time to return the favour.”

Nortjé, who also played for the Junior Boks last year and has now rejoined Letebele in the Blitzbok squad, can’t wait to tear up the turf at the Hong Kong Stadium from Friday. His memorable entry into sevens rugby – scoring in the final of his first event – was blighted by a hamstring injury sustained in Perth, and as a result, he missed the North American leg of the World Sevens Series.

“It is great to be back,” said Nortjé. “I was despondent when I broke down, as injuries put you back, and I was enjoying myself out there.

“But I changed my focus on the rehab process and how to get back to fitness. It is important to rehab well, and I am pleased that I could come back in time for Hong Kong.

“I am ready to use my speed, and to chase kicks and whatever else is expected of me.”

Nortjé said his hamstring is feeling 100% and he is ready to play, and that his mind will be clear.

“When (former Blitzbok) Chris Dry asked me when I will be ready and I said Hong Kong, he told me that is one tournament everyone wants to play in. The stadium and surrounding mountains create a buzz,” he said. “The scenery was as he described it, so now it is just for me to go out there and give everything I have for the Blitzboks.”

The Blitzboks face Ireland at 5.39am (SA time) in their first Pool C game tomorrow, which will be followed by a clash against Spain at 8.23am.

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